Jun 202015


I’m never surprised when a client calls or comes into the shop and says, “I let a friend use my computer and now it’s not working properly.” Feel free to substitute “grandchild, son, daughter, neighbor and sometimes even spouse,” for “friend.”

Sick ComputerNote to self: a personal computer is not a rental car. The programs you use are easily reconfigured. Your important files are easily deleted. And as great as the Internet is, it’s also chock-full of infected websites that can contaminate your computer even by a drive-by visit. The truth is that some people (with every good intention) are not very careful or are easily fooled by fake advertisements and warnings that are displayed on those bad websites (and even some not-so-bad websites).

Most people I know who depend on their computer have spent a lot of time arranging their files and personalizing the programs they regularly use. When they are changed without their knowledge, putting them right can be time-consuming and annoying.  It’s not like adjusting the seat in your car. It’s easy to readjust the seat if someone else uses your car, but can you imagine if it took an hour or more? That can be exactly what happens when you let someone else use your personal computer. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

The worst offenders in my experience are grandkids, children and spouses, in that order. There are a couple of things you can do to protect your computer. Number one, you can just say no. I always tell my clients who absolutely depend on their personal computer – to try and not let others use it. When you have to say no to your grandkids, you are not being selfish. Even if you create a limited guest account as I will explain below, it can still get messed up and data not protected by being in your personal user directory can still be accidentally deleted.

Computer SecurityIf you must share your personal computer with other people, you can have a limited guest login for your computer.  Most operating systems allow for several people to use the same computer.  Logging in through a limited second account gives your child/grandchild/spouse/friend limited access to the applications on your computer, and no access to your personal files as long as that data is kept in your personal user directory. Limited accounts are not able to install software or change critical settings, and provide protection from most serious infections.  Someone logged in as a limited user can browse the internet and use most applications.

Here is the bottom line. I am a very nice guy and am happy to share many of my possessions with family and friends, but not my personal computer. I would sooner let them borrow my car, because I can always rent one if it gets damaged. But I can’t rent a computer that’s going to have all my files and particular programs on it.  If you must share your computer, setup a limited guest account.  If you need help with this, we can help.

One last note… I have said “personal computer” because most computers you might be using in a corporate environment have already been locked down by the company computer techs and are connected to a central server computer that regulates most things that can be done.


Ronnie Reboot


June 20th, 2015

 Posted by at 12:57 PM
May 142015


This column first appeared in The La Canada and Pasadena Outlook Newspapers on May 14, 2015


Dear Parent Coach,

I was awakened at 2 a.m. recently, and discovered my 14 year old son on the computer playing games. We were both surprised to see each other at that hour! I was very upset. He said he lost track of time. I need help with a consequence.Playing Game

Thanks, Mom

Dear Mom,

Many parents, like yourself, are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy it takes to manage the fast growing use of technology by their children. Gone are the days when excessive TV viewing was the biggest concern on a parent’s mind.

Today’s tweens and teens (and even younger children) are technology whizzes. Not only are they quick to adapt to ever changing uses of each new gadget that comes on the market, but they are equally good at getting around the various parental blocks that are available.

A recent study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation showed that children ages 8 to 18 are spending an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using some form of media for entertainment. This includes listening to music, playing games and watching TV, as well as texting, all on cell phones.

Excessive use of ubiquitous technology can have a negative impact on the grades and health of students. Many young people involved with social networking on Facebook and texting find it addictive, and they have difficulty knowing when to call it quits for the day. They’re obsessed with keeping in touch with friends constantly.

Family life can also suffer in the wake of over-the-top technology use by everyone in a family. There is less time for face to face interactions between family members, as well as decreased time available for sharing household responsibilities and other activities that are supportive and bonding.

Parents report that their teens are texting friends under the dinner table during a family meal. Others are caught off guard when their tween texts them from an upstairs bedroom to see if dinner is on the table yet.

Obviously, there are many positive and convenient uses for various forms of modern technology, as well as the possibility of misuse and obsessive use by inexperienced and naive kids. It is a parent’s responsibility to establish guidelines and controls that keep their children safe, healthy, and balanced.

Children do not obtain computers and cell phones on their own, without their parents’ consent and help in purchasing them. As parents make the decision to provide these for their children, a good deal of thought should be given by parents as to how, when, and where they should be used appropriately.  Guidelines need to be clearly stated and enforced.

When teens begin to drive, parents typically spell out guidelines for the use of a car- where they can drive it, when they need to be home, and their responsibilities for the privilege of driving. The same should be true for use of a computer or cell phone, with specific uses spelled out and consequences in place for rule infractions.

Your son’s use of the computer at 2 a.m. was obviously against your parental guidelines, and you want there to be a consequence. The most logical one is to restrict the use of the computer for a week or two. The computer should be off limits to him except for completion of homework, and turned off when he finishes it.

Before resuming his use of the computer, your son needs to state your guidelines regarding appropriate use, and clearly understand what the consequences would be, should he decide to play games in the middle of the night again.

AgreementTRY THIS:

Draw up a contract that states your guidelines for computer and cell phone use by your son.  Include consequences for infractions.  Go over the details with your son before you both sign it.


 Posted by at 2:44 PM
Dec 202014


Frustrated WomanThe most common thing we hear in my business? It is “I’m really dumb (or bad or inexperienced) when it comes to computers.”  So the first question I’m going to answer is – are you in fact really that dumb when it comes to computers?

My confident answer is “maybe inexperienced, but not bad or dumb.”

Why?  If you moved to Italy and spoke no Italian, could you learn the language? Of course you could! However, much of it would depend on how immersed you became. If you lived with Italians, who spoke only Italian, my guess is that you would learn the language pretty quick. Would it be a week before you were fluent? Of course not!

Learning and using computers is just like learning and using another language. As a matter of fact, I would say it is another language, a visual one. After a week, would you be able to speak Italian? Well, maybe a little, but unless you were a language savant, probably not much. How long would it take? Obviously, it would depend on a lot of factors, like how hard you worked at it and how much of each day you spent trying to speak it.

Using a computer is exactly the same. Computers are way more complex than your TV or microwave oven. So give yourself a break. Don’t think you can just dive into a new operating system (Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are operating systems) and are going to understand it well in a day. We tech people spend most of everyday using and learning about computers, so don’t compare yourselves to us. And don’t compare yourself to a teenager who spends every waking moment with their attention focused on their computer or smart phone (which is just a small computer.)

It’s going to take some practice. One of my strong suggestions is to learn how to use the built in help system. Both Microsoft and Apple have put considerable time and effort into improving the built in help systems over the years. Of course even learning to use the help system will take some practice.

The best advice and I can give you is to be patient with yourself and keep learning.

Ronnie Reboot


December 20th, 2014

 Posted by at 10:12 PM